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(Washington, DC) – Four leading nongovernmental organizations issued a statement on February 16, 2009 applauding the decision by the US Department of State to send a negotiating team to Geneva to participate in the Durban Review Conference, Human Rights Watch said today. The statement was signed by Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation; Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch; William H. Luers, president of the United Nations Association of the USA; Karin Ryan, director, Human Rights Program of The Carter Center; and Mort Halperin, former director of policy planning, US Department of State.

“We applaud the United States’ decision to engage in this week’s preparatory meetings of the Durban Review Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, which was announced late last week,” the organizations said in the statement. “The 2009 Review Conference requires leadership to ensure an outcome that helps achieve its valuable purpose of ending racism and furthering human rights. Some countries involved in the negotiations are trying to divert the conference from its original goals, yet the Obama administration has an opportunity to continue progress toward addressing these important issues. We hope the US decision to participate in the negotiations is part of a broader strategy of US engagement on the international human rights agenda, including a decision to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council. The US cannot provide the leadership necessary to promote and protect human rights by sitting on the sidelines. After several years of US disengagement on international human rights issues, this decision is a positive indication of the Obama administration’s commitment to cooperation and dialogue with the rest of the world.”

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